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Myths and Truths About Diabetes

Throughout the month of November in celebration of American Diabetes Month, we will bring you facts about the prevention and the management of prediabetes and diabetes – starting with prediabetes and Type 1 and 2 Diabetes.

Recently the American Diabetes Association surveyed the American public to find out how much people know about diabetes. The results were telling in that there are still many misconceptions about diabetes. Some of common myths and facts include:

Myth: Diabetes is not that serious of a disease.

When asked to rank which disease (diabetes, breast cancer, AIDS) was responsible for the greatest number of U.S. deaths each year, not even half of respondents chose diabetes (42%).

Fact: Diabetes causes more deaths a year than breast cancer and AIDS combined.  Two out of three people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke.

Myth: Eating too much sugar can lead to diabetes.

According to the survey, approximately one third of respondents knew this myth was false (32%).

Fact: No, it cannot.  Type 1 diabetes is caused by genetics and unknown factors that trigger the onset of the disease; type 2 diabetes is caused by genetics and lifestyle factors.  Being overweight does increase your risk for developing type 2 diabetes, and a diet high in calories, whether from sugar or from fat, can contribute to weight gain.  If you have a history of diabetes in your family, eating a healthy meal plan and regular exercise are recommended to manage your weight.

Myth: If you are overweight or obese, you will eventually develop type 2 diabetes.

According the survey, approximately three in five respondents (59%) did not know that this is a false statement.  In addition, more than half (53%) of respondents did not know that risk for developing type 2 diabetes increases with age.

Fact:  Being overweight is a risk factor for developing this disease, but other risk factors such as family history, ethnicity and age also play a role. Unfortunately, too many people disregard the other risk factors for diabetes and think that weight is the only risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Most overweight people never develop type 2 diabetes, and many people with type 2 diabetes are at a normal weight or only moderately overweight.

RELATED: Find out your risk for type 2 diabetes.

“Diabetes prevalence continues to be a leading cause of death,” said George Huntley, Chair of the Board of the American Diabetes Association. “In spite of this, our research shows that many people still may not take diabetes seriously; they consider it more of a condition than a disease.  Many also incorrectly believe that if a person with diabetes doesn’t appear to be ill, then their disease must not be serious or damaging.  In fact, people we encountered did not believe us when we told them that diabetes, if left untreated, can be deadly.  They thought this was an untrue statement.  It’s obvious that a more aggressive approach is desperately needed, and that we need to engage more people in the fight to stop diabetes.”

RELATED: See how you score on diabetes myths and facts with the Stop Diabetes widget.

About Carol White, BSN, RN

Carol V. White, BSN, RN-BC is a Patient Educator in the Adult Diabetes Management Program with WakeMed Health & Hospitals